Masterton Medical. PHOTO/FILE

ELISA VORSTER
elisa.vorster@age.co.nz

A new phone-based triage assessment system could have patients sent for blood tests and X-rays without visiting a GP.

Masterton Medical implemented a new service this week which determines the needs of patients who request an urgent or same-day appointment before they come into the practice.

Patients who ring for an urgent or same-day appointment will receive a call shortly after from one of the centre’s GPs to discuss their medical complaints and determine the next steps.

The previous procedure had patients being triaged by a nurse at the practice prior to seeing the duty GP.

Some medical centres in the region provide a free phone assessment by a nurse practitioner, however, Masterton Medical does not have a nurse practitioner working in acute care.

A spokesperson for the medical centre said the GP phone service meant patients with acute symptoms could be assessed over the phone and pre-work conducted without them having to come in to the practice first.

“We believe patients will find phone triage convenient and time-saving.

“Of course, where a patient urgently needs to see a GP face-to-face, they will be seen on the day.”

The centre claims the main benefit of the service is that urgent medical issues will be assessed quicker and treatment can be administered sooner.

While the service is patient-focused, it will also reduce the demand for urgent or same-day appointments at the practice by prioritising medical issues that require a face-to-face GP consultation over those that can be treated over the phone.

It also meant a GP could arrange for pre-work such as X-rays and blood tests to be done before seeing the patient.

The cost of the service is the standard GP consultation fee when a medical issue is resolved over the phone.

If a patient needs a blood test or an X-ray, the GP can arrange this and there will be no charge to the patient.

The standard fee will also be charged if during the triage assessment a patient is advised to go in to the practice for a face-to-face consultation, however, patients will not be asked to pay for the telephone triage assessment as
well as this.